Saturday, December 1, 2012

Please Hear What I'm Not Saying

Please Hear What I'm Not Saying
a poem by Charles C. Finn

Don't be fooled by me.
Don't be fooled by the face I wear
for I wear a mask, a thousand masks,
masks that I'm afraid to take off,
and none of them is me.

Pretending is an art that's second nature with me,
but don't be fooled,
for God's sake don't be fooled.
I give you the impression that I'm secure,
that all is sunny and unruffled with me, within as well as without,
that confidence is my name and coolness my game,
that the water's calm and I'm in command
and that I need no one,
but don't believe me.

My surface may seem smooth but my surface is my mask,
ever-varying and ever-concealing.
Beneath lies no complacence.
Beneath lies confusion, and fear, and aloneness.
But I hide this. I don't want anybody to know it.
I panic at the thought of my weakness exposed.
That's why I frantically create a mask to hide behind,
a nonchalant sophisticated facade,
to help me pretend,
to shield me from the glance that knows.

But such a glance is precisely my salvation, my only hope,
and I know it.
That is, if it's followed by acceptance,
if it's followed by love.
It's the only thing that can liberate me from myself,
from my own self-built prison walls,
from the barriers I so painstakingly erect.
It's the only thing that will assure me
of what I can't assure myself,
that I'm really worth something.

But I don't tell you this. I don't dare to, I'm afraid to.
I'm afraid your glance will not be followed by acceptance,
will not be followed by love.
I'm afraid you'll think less of me,
that you'll laugh, and your laugh would kill me.
I'm afraid that deep-down I'm nothing
and that you will see this and reject me.

So I play my game, my desperate pretending game,
with a facade of assurance without
and a trembling child within.
So begins the glittering but empty parade of masks,
and my life becomes a front.

I idly chatter to you in the suave tones of surface talk.
I tell you everything that's really nothing,
and nothing of what's everything,
of what's crying within me.
So when I'm going through my routine
do not be fooled by what I'm saying.
Please listen carefully and try to hear what I'm not saying,
what I'd like to be able to say,
what for survival I need to say,
but what I can't say.

I don't like hiding.
I don't like playing superficial phony games.
I want to stop playing them.
I want to be genuine and spontaneous and me
but you've got to help me.
You've got to hold out your hand
even when that's the last thing I seem to want.
Only you can wipe away from my eyes
the blank stare of the breathing dead.
Only you can call me into aliveness.
Each time you're kind, and gentle, and encouraging,
each time you try to understand because you really care,
my heart begins to grow wings--
very small wings,
very feeble wings,
but wings!

With your power to touch me into feeling
you can breathe life into me.
I want you to know that.
I want you to know how important you are to me,
how you can be a creator--an honest-to-God creator--
of the person that is me
if you choose to.
You alone can break down the wall behind which I tremble,
you alone can remove my mask,
you alone can release me from my shadow-world of panic,
from my lonely prison,
if you choose to.
Please choose to.

Do not pass me by.
It will not be easy for you.
A long conviction of worthlessness builds strong walls.
The nearer you approach to me
the blinder I may strike back.
It's irrational, but despite what the books say about man
often I am irrational.
I fight against the very thing I cry out for.
But I am told that love is stronger than strong walls
and in this lies my hope.
Please try to beat down those walls
with firm hands but with gentle hands
for a child is very sensitive.

Who am I, you may wonder?
I am someone you know very well.
For I am every man you meet
and I am every woman you meet.

This is the original version of “Please Hear What I'm Not Saying” written in September, 1966. Charlie has just published a book about the effects this poem has had on people around the world. It is called, appropriately enough, Please Hear What I Am Not Saying and is available on the "More Poetry" page. Poetry by Charles C. Finn


  1. this is quite powerful, Cody! I'm impressed.

    1. Thank you, Lena. Charlie is an incredible poet. Be sure to visit his site. Thanks for dropping by. It's always great to see you here.

  2. Replies
    1. You're more than welcome, Iyana. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Be sure to stop by Charlies site and thanks for dropping by. It's always great to see you here.

  3. That's beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

    1. My pleasure, Beth. Thanks for dropping by and commenting!

  4. I just read this poem for the first time. It makes me think of the characters I write about, especially Brett of Beggars and Choosers and Philippe of Out of Hiding. Exploring the very emotions that this poem describes is my reason for writing. Thank you for sharing this. It is important.

    1. You're more than welcome. It is a profound poem and the chracters in your stories are very much mirrored by it, Mia. I'm so glad you dropped by and found it. Thanks for taking the time to comment too. <3

  5. Wow. That is a very powerful poem. Would love to hear more of his poems. Maybe find the book.

    1. It is, Nancy. At the bottom of the poem you can find the link to Charlie's site and all of his works. He's a great guy and I'm sure he'd love it if you checked it out. Thanks for dropping by and commenting. It's great to see you here.

  6. Thanks for posting Cody. I see a lot of myself in that poem.

    1. It is an amazing poem, Denise... a little bit of all of us.

  7. You always find a way to bring beauty to us all. Thank you so much for this. So beautiful.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Carol. It is a wonderful poem.

  8. Ouch. This heart my heart... Beautiful.

  9. Thank you Cody for this. <3 It is a powerful poem.